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Why do YOU translate into a non-native language?
ناشر الموضوع: TranslationCe

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
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very funny and interesting fact Feb 18, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Funnily enough, some of those with the highest level of English as a foreign language here on ProZ.com actually don't class themselves as native speakers.



I got curious and checked several profiles. That is a genuinely fascinating fact.


 

EvaVer (X)  Identity Verified
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I do Feb 18, 2016

because it has been always considered normal in my country, and many local agencies would just not consider looking for translators abroad. On the contrary - they cannot understand why some of my languages are "source only". It's historical, I think - we used to be pretty isolated here... And, as others said, I think I am pretty good at it.

 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
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I translate into English, which I'm not native in Feb 18, 2016

because my clients are happy with my translations;
because I can charge a higher rate than working in the other direction.
because I work faster than working in the other direction.


Chiara Foppa Pedretti
 

Diana Coada  Identity Verified
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Hear, hear! Feb 18, 2016

The Misha wrote:
Because this is the language of the country I have lived in for most of my adult life.
Because this is the language I used to learn pretty much everything I know professionally.
Because this is the language I am most comfortable with and use it daily for all kinds of purposes - from writing original fiction to communicating with my children to bickering with my wife, when it comes to that.
Because at this point it is so infinitely harder for me to go the other way around, and I am nowhere near as good at it.
Because I can.
Because that's what I want.
Because I don't think I need anyone's blessing or permission to do it.

Now, not to put too fine a point on it, how is this anyone's business, except mine and my clients'? Why does this keep on popping again and again?


 

The Misha
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This thing got me thinking today Feb 18, 2016

About why my own experience switching sides seems to be so different from that of others among you out there who have reportedly lived in your source language countries for decades yet never, ever, God forbid go against what The Book of Good Translating says. So, to try and prevent this from turning into a yet another boring rehash of the same tired old thing, let me rephrase the original question a bit and ask you this: how come after all these years you still cannot or would not produce a pass... See more
About why my own experience switching sides seems to be so different from that of others among you out there who have reportedly lived in your source language countries for decades yet never, ever, God forbid go against what The Book of Good Translating says. So, to try and prevent this from turning into a yet another boring rehash of the same tired old thing, let me rephrase the original question a bit and ask you this: how come after all these years you still cannot or would not produce a passable job for hire going into your source language in your areas of professional expertise? Better yet, why are some of you so righteously outspoken about this, ahem, somewhat underwhelming achievement?
Out of an abundance of caution, let us limit the exercise to those working in more conventional European language pairs, specifically excluding Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and other such exotic fare, as well as any new Nabokovs, Conrads and Makines (sorry, guys). So how about it?
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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
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... Feb 18, 2016

Sheila Wilson wrote:

But you too must come across countless examples of translators translating into English when they can barely construct sentences in the language.


Boy, are those guys annoying! To steal my jobs like that!

The problem with non-native proofreaders and revisers is even worse. Granted, they tend to be much better than the average non-native, but there's always something they don't know, so they think it's incorrect, which leads to a very special type of pain when they outrank you and can actually overrule you.

I doubt that there's the same problem into your native languages of Polish and Russian respectively.


Non-native Polish does exist. I've seen examples, they've scarred me for life. They should be shown to all our students who think about translanting into a foreign language, as mandatory course material.

Then again, I've even seen non-native Polish that's near-indistinguishable, also from native speakers of English. Personally, I don't care at all that I can tell the writer is not native, and I totally can't understand why that should be a problem. What matters is how good they are, and some of them are better than 99 out of 100 native writers.

Samuel Murray wrote:

From a strictly theoretical point of view, my personal opinion is that translating from your native language makes more sense than translating into it. A translation into your non-native language may be less artsy but at least you know it will be dead accurate because you are less likely to misunderstand something in a source text written in your native language.


Precisely.

Besides, emphasizing nativeness allows universities and agencies to de-emphasize skill and training. Learn a foreign language to an intermediate level et voilà, you can translate into your native language now for three to six cents a word.

[Edited at 2016-02-18 23:15 GMT]


MatthewLaSon
 

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
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tone Feb 18, 2016

One big problem with non-natives is that no matter how accurate they might be in some respects, they consistently fail to match the tone with the content. This is a big problem with informal stuff, like knowing when it's natural to use contractions or idioms.

You've guessed it, I never translate into Dutch even though I've been speaking it fluently at home every day for 25 years, and I never intend to! And I wish others would do the same, because I've had some pretty rank stuff to
... See more
One big problem with non-natives is that no matter how accurate they might be in some respects, they consistently fail to match the tone with the content. This is a big problem with informal stuff, like knowing when it's natural to use contractions or idioms.

You've guessed it, I never translate into Dutch even though I've been speaking it fluently at home every day for 25 years, and I never intend to! And I wish others would do the same, because I've had some pretty rank stuff to proofread...
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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
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But... Feb 18, 2016

Samuel Murray wrote:

From a strictly theoretical point of view, my personal opinion is that translating from your native language makes more sense than translating into it. A translation into your non-native language may be less artsy but at least you know it will be dead accurate because you are less likely to misunderstand something in a source text written in your native language.


But, from the same strictly theoretical point of view, if you are not 100% sure you can fully understand a source written in your second language, how can you be 100% sure you'll be able to render anything and everything from your native language into that very same second language (especially with the same naturalness, nuances, tone, subtleties, wordplays, etc.)?

And I guess the same could apply to interpreters too...


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
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I don't write my souce language to professional standards and don't have time Feb 18, 2016

The reason I don't translate professionally into Danish is that I only write it as well as the average Dane, not the real professional linguists. I am not 100% reliable, and it is usually easier to find someone from the old school like my husband who really does write correct Danish. Or a fully qualified Translatør.

I concentrate on my English... and I really do have to fight off clients a lot of the time. I am offered more work than I can take on, but I know that some of th
... See more
The reason I don't translate professionally into Danish is that I only write it as well as the average Dane, not the real professional linguists. I am not 100% reliable, and it is usually easier to find someone from the old school like my husband who really does write correct Danish. Or a fully qualified Translatør.

I concentrate on my English... and I really do have to fight off clients a lot of the time. I am offered more work than I can take on, but I know that some of the jobs I would struggle with will delight colleagues who specialise in just the right subject area. So I never get round to perfecting my Danish for professional purposes.

I cannot write Danish medical Latin, although I can reasonably confidently translate it for English readers.

And so on.

I do write directly in Danish a lot of the time in the course of daily life. But I still get a Dane to check it through - for typos if nothing else... if I want to make an impression.
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Kay Denney  Identity Verified
فرنسا
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I already explained that Feb 19, 2016

The Misha wrote:

About why my own experience switching sides seems to be so different from that of others among you out there who have reportedly lived in your source language countries for decades yet never, ever, God forbid go against what The Book of Good Translating says. So, to try and prevent this from turning into a yet another boring rehash of the same tired old thing, let me rephrase the original question a bit and ask you this: how come after all these years you still cannot or would not produce a passable job for hire going into your source language in your areas of professional expertise? Better yet, why are some of you so righteously outspoken about this, ahem, somewhat underwhelming achievement?
Out of an abundance of caution, let us limit the exercise to those working in more conventional European language pairs, specifically excluding Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and other such exotic fare, as well as any new Nabokovs, Conrads and Makines (sorry, guys). So how about it?


As I already said: "My French is fine. Like any foreigner I get gender mixed up every now and then (like "moustique", I know it's masculine but it just sounds like a feminine word to me, rhyming with boutique for example) when I'm speaking but when I write I know it's flawless.

But my brain is wired to translate into English and I find it hard to work the other way. I haven't needed to think in English then translate my thought into French for so long that it just doesn't happen any more.

Tell me a word in French, I'll tell you the equivalent in English immediately unless I've had a glass or two of wine in which I'll tell you I'm off duty. But tell me a word in English, I might be able to tell you what sort of translation I use it in, but the French just won't come unless I try very hard. With millions of dictionaries to hand on Internet my brain doesn't even want to try."

Of course there are plenty of people capable of translating into a language they didn't grow up with and the mistakes they make are not necessarily worse than some made by true native speakers. I just caught a "the alone staff member" instead of "the sole staff member" proofing a text yesterday. The rest of the highly technical memo was fine, the terminology spot on, but little things like that do jar rather. Less of a problem than if the termino was off, and technical translators, in my personal experience as a PM, are notorious for not bothering to get the feel of the translation right, or making it flow naturally so a native might not have done any better.

What really raises my hackles is when I have to proof a thing written in English by a Dutchman, and it turns out to be a press kit. The guy will pay through the nose to have a professional do his press kit in Dutch, then takes it upon himself to do the English. In other words, he thinks he can do in English what he cannot do in his own language. And then gets riled because he sees I have practically re-written the entire thing and we agreed on a per-hour rate.

I remember a friend showing me a company brochure: she had pointed out to the guy in charge of producing it that the English didn't make sense, he brushed it off with "nobody cares". The company was just pretending to have an international footing to be able to swagger in front of their French clients... I can't help but chuckle at the thought of a French client noticing that the English was nonsense and the brochure producer suddenly in the position of the Emperor wearing no clothes.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
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The imitation game Feb 19, 2016

The Misha wrote:
Out of an abundance of caution, let us limit the exercise to those working in more conventional European language pairs, specifically excluding Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and other such exotic fare ... So how about it?

Hah, no point arguing, this is a quasi-religious (and largely Anglosphere?) issue.

Sometimes clients place the emphasis on issues other than supremely idiomatic translations. They might prioritize physical location, or trust (as Samuel said earlier) or experience in the specialized field of translation. I think that's rational and justifiable.

Ideally there would be a kind of Turing test for translators. If I'm shown a text in English, without knowing the nationality of the translator, and it is accurate, and nothing jumps out at me as being odd or unidiomatic - well, it's probably good enough, right?

There are people on this forum who write uniformly good English to that level. That number even includes a few native speakers.

However, given that there are so few people at that rarified level - ~1% of translators? - I do think clients are justified in using "native speakers of target only" as a heuristic to save time and to filter out a very large field of candidates.

In most European language pairs I wouldn't have thought there was a lack of target-native translators. I was amazed to hear that demand exceeds supply in Dutch, for example. Life is full of surprises (and clichés).

Regards
Dan


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
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English a special case? Feb 19, 2016

English may be a special case, to some extent.

In business terms:
There are a ton of potential clients who have a constant need for translations into English (regardless of the source language).
There are a ton of native speakers of every other language with an excellent passive grasp of English (regardless of what that other language is).
That means that the demand for translations into English is exponentially greater and the supply of competent (native and non
... See more
English may be a special case, to some extent.

In business terms:
There are a ton of potential clients who have a constant need for translations into English (regardless of the source language).
There are a ton of native speakers of every other language with an excellent passive grasp of English (regardless of what that other language is).
That means that the demand for translations into English is exponentially greater and the supply of competent (native and non-native) translators is much smaller.

That provides a good reason to translate into English, regardless of whether it is a native or non-native language. That may also be the main reason why I have never seriously considered developing and selling my English>German skills.

Why I don't translate into German:
My German is very good, but it is certainly not perfect, even under ideal conditions. And translation is probably the worst of all conditions: Dealing with a source text means being forced to adapt the way I would write something to how someone else writes it, to write things that I never have and never would write - and to do all of that under the pressure of deadlines and the need to work quickly to earn money.
I enjoy my occasional translations into German and I also find thme very interesting and a learning experience. I also enjoy writing in English and German and painting and playing with my children. That does not mean that I can earn a good living doing those things. Maybe when I'm old, I'll take up translating into German as a hobby.

I understand Samuel's argument about non-natives at least being able to understand the source text, but I think he is downplaying the difficulty of finding target-text solutions (it is easy to look something up from the source text, but it is often very hard to figure out how to make it happen in the target text). However, like many non-native translators I would agree that most (>50%) native translators have serious deficits in terms of source-language comprehension. What disturbs me more than anything, though, is the incredible lack of emphasis placed on subject-matter knowledge.

PS: Having an in-house position (outside of a translation agency) is another good reason to translate in both directions.
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Tom in London
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Put yourself in the client's shoes Feb 19, 2016

If I were a client with a carefully written and approved document to be translated into another language (XXX), I would be willing to pay a dignified professional rate for someone who is:

- a native XXX speaker
- currently resident in the country where XXX is the official language and is therefore up to speed with current usage
- familiar with the subject matter
- has been educated to a high standard of literacy

As I do not know XXX myself, I would
... See more
If I were a client with a carefully written and approved document to be translated into another language (XXX), I would be willing to pay a dignified professional rate for someone who is:

- a native XXX speaker
- currently resident in the country where XXX is the official language and is therefore up to speed with current usage
- familiar with the subject matter
- has been educated to a high standard of literacy

As I do not know XXX myself, I would also want some sort of assurance that the translation I'm paying for is as good as I would expect.

I would not be happy at all to have my beautifully-composed document translated into XXX by someone who isn't a native, up-to-date, current speaker of XXX.

[Edited at 2016-02-19 09:06 GMT]
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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
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Turing test Feb 19, 2016

Dan Lucas wrote:

Ideally there would be a kind of Turing test for translators. If I'm shown a text in English, without knowing the nationality of the translator, and it is accurate, and nothing jumps out at me as being odd or unidiomatic - well, it's probably good enough, right?



Not necessarily. Apart from the fact that this is a circular argument (because you would have to pass that Turing test yourself before qualifying as a judge, just like the person who judges your Turing test etc. pp), you will only be able to judge the monolingual quality of text, not the quality of the translation.

I don't translate out of my native language, simply because I can't. Native speakers will be able to recognise the non-native level of my L2 texts after the first few words.

However, it is much easier to tidy up a translation made by a translator who can't produce text with a native-level quality in the target language than it is to spot mistranslations in a perfectly worded translation into the translator's native language.

In Kudoz questions, I have seen translators whom I regard highly and who are doubtlessly able to produce flawless texts in their target language completely fail to understand nuances or even the core meaning of their source text. I'm absolutely sure this happens to me as well. This doesn't mean I'd want to switch my working language directions. It just goes to show.


 

Tom in London
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Then I hope Feb 19, 2016

jyuan_us wrote:

I translate into English, which I'm not native in


As a native English speaker I suspect I would know instantly, from the off, reading a translation by someone who isn't native, that English is not their native language. I wouldn't want anyone like that translating my stuff.

Were I not a native English speaker I would just have to trust them. Would that be wise?

[Edited at 2016-02-19 09:19 GMT]


 
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